I was not going to do a 9/11 post this year. Interestingly enough, the more time that goes by, the more difficult thinking about it becomes.
But, I decided I needed to do it. However, rather than do a whole new post, I’m going to simply re-publish the one I did back in 2011. It tells the story of how I heard about what happened, along with my visit to the temporary memorial.
Since then, the new memorial has been completed, and as I watched a story about it, the tears flowed once again. It is such a difficult thing to see, even more now, I’m sure, in the new, completed memorial than it was at the old one.
I liken it to seeing the Passion of the Christ. I didn’t WANT to see it, but felt I must. The same is true of this memorial. It is such an intense experience, one that you could easily avoid, but I highly recommend getting past any reservations, and going to see it. It really takes it from some vague happening in the country, to a personal experience. And although it’s difficult, I needed to do it.
I was sleeping when the first tower was hit. My son, who was in the Army and stationed in Germany, called to tell us to turn the t.v. on. My husband was in the other room already watching the coverage, but at that time, there was much confusion and it wasn’t clear how or why a plane had plowed into the building, and he hadn’t yet thought it momentous enough to wake the sleeping grizzly bear (I’m not a morning person!)
It wasn’t long before the second plane hit and we knew it was no accident. We watched in horror with the rest of the country as the first, then second tower collapsed. The rest is history.
I always knew that some day I would want to see the area in person, but living on the West Coast, the opportunity to visit the site was never a possibility until last year. I met a woman in 2008, on an on-line political site where we each blogged, and we became friends. In mid 2010 she offered up a vague invitation to be a tour guide for some of us on the site should we ever find ourselves in NYC, and I brazenly e-mailed her and asked if she would put me up for a few nights if I flew out. She accepted my invitation, and the date was set for mid-October. She began planning our visit, sending me tons of links to peruse. I LOVED that what she was suggesting was an “insider’s” view of NYC, hitting the “need to see” things, but peppered with things people who don’t live there wouldn’t know about. I was so excited!
I arrived in the late evening, and we stayed up till 5am visiting and sharing stories, then finally going to sleep for a few hours before venturing out. Our first stop was to a darling coffee shop in Manhattan for a leisurely breakfast, followed by the ‘Burlington Coat Factory” of Ground Zero controversy (and it seriously does not feel like part of Ground Zero!) and then off to Ground Zero itself.
I had spent a bit of time thinking about what it would feel like, and believe me when I say I hadn’t come anywhere close in my mind. As we got nearer, I felt more and more shaky, my throat constricting…goose bumps on my arms. We were strangely quiet as we walked the blocks around the fenced-in area, only able to see in at scattered spots.
There was a small memorial museum set up near the corner where the decimated fire house was, right near Liberty St.
The 1st thing to make me gasp was a very realistic photo of the remains of an American flag found on the site. The tears were beginning to well up. As we watched a video on the wall, they silently began to fall.
It wasn’t until we rounded the corner to the wall of “photos of the lost” that I fell apart. We stood there with our arms around each other, comforting each other as best we could through our sobs.
After a bit we regained our composure and worked our way through the rest of the museum, and on to the wall of the fire house now housing a beautiful bronze memorial. My friend very wisely then steered me to Battery Park on the banks of the Hudson River…a beautiful, green area with paths leading you right down to the water, the Statue of Liberty off in the distance. It was the perfect place for quiet reflection and “decompressing” after the emotional visit to Ground Zero. Her thoughtfulness in knowing just what I would need will forever be intertwined with my remembrances of 9/11.
This is my first year of having a really personal attachment to the date. I mean, as an American I always felt the loss of the people, and the anger at our country having been attacked. But it was compartmentalized somehow. In some way I was a bit detached from the reality of it all. The anniversary coming up didn’t cause me to relive the hurt each year. But having been there, having seen the gaping hole where giant buildings used to be, and two whole walls full of pictures of the people who died there… That’s now changed.